SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Augustana University is hosting its first Augie Access Experience Camp for high school students with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

The camp will run from Wednesday, June 14 through Friday, June 16 and focus on what college life looks like and give the students the chance to see if college is right for them. The 10 campers selected are juniors and seniors in high school. 

“A camp like this will spread awareness about programs like ours in the state and would give students with intellectual and developmental disabilities the same chance to check out a college campus that so many juniors in high school and seniors get, but our students with disabilities often don’t get to participate in those,” Jessica Lamb, program director for Augie Access, said. 

During the two-day camp, the 10 campers will get to live in the dorm with a roommate, eat in the dining hall, attend lectures and participate in freshman orientation-style activities. 

“All of those experiences that really help you make your decisions about whether or not this might be a good fit for me– that’s really our hope for the students is that they come, they get to have these experiences with same age peers and really set some goals for themselves while they’re here and to discern, ‘Is this something I might like to do?’” Michelle Powers said. Powers is an associate professor in the school of education and co-director of Augie Access.  

The camp will be staffed with five Augustana students acting as both support staff and program coordinators. Former and current Augie Access students are also set to speak during the camp. 

Augie Access was started nine years ago as a transitional program for students with disabilities to provide an inclusive post-secondary education experience, preparing them for careers and internship opportunities. 

The program is three years long, caters to 18-26-year-olds and is the only comprehensive transition program in the state. Students involved with Augie Access also work on employment skills, independent living and socialization. 

John James is in his final year with Augie Access and will be coming over from Minnesota to speak with the prospective students about his experience. During his time at Augustana, James has helped out with the baseball and football programs and is also involved with student government. 

“It’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done and it’s a revolutionary program that I would recommend to other kids with autism and Down syndrome and ADHD,” James said. 

Although the camp is through Augustana, it is open to all students with intellectual or developmental disabilities looking to gain more information about college life. 

Augie Access Experience Camp is completely free for the students due to a $20,000 grant from the South Dakota Council on Developmental Disabilities. 

“Our main goal was to make sure that camp was available at no cost to families,” Lamb said. “A lot of things are really cost prohibitive and we didn’t want this to be so we are using the grant money to operate the whole. Without that grant, we wouldn’t have been able to do this.”

Powers said they hope to bring the camp back next year and possibly partner with businesses to continue keeping the costs low.